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Narcisse v. Dalphine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 28, 2016

MARVIN M. NARCISSE, Plaintiff,
v.
M. DALPHINE, Defendant.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Following his prosecution in Connecticut state court for an attack on a 77-year-old woman, plaintiff Marvin M. Narcisse was confined at the Whiting Forensic Division of the Connecticut Valley Hospital. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when he was denied permission by the hospital to attend his mother's funeral. For the reasons set forth below, I will dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), with leave granted to plaintiff to file an amended complaint within 30 days.[1]

         Background

         On the afternoon of December 22, 2011, plaintiff engaged in an unprovoked and horrifying attack on a 77-year-old woman in Bridgeport. See State v. Narcise, 2013 WL 2132107, at *1 (Conn. Super. 2013).[2] The woman was walking on the sidewalk away from a grocery store when plaintiff ran up from behind her, tackled her to the ground, and then stabbed her repeatedly in the face with the broken-off stem of a wine glass. Ibid. Plaintiff was described by witnesses that day as acting in a deranged rage and had no rational reason for the attack. Ibid. The woman was severely and permanently injured. Id. at 2. Defendant was charged with attempted murder among other charges, and he was eventually adjudicated by a Connecticut state court judge in April 2013 to be not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Id. at *2-*5.

         The following facts are drawn from plaintiff's complaint in this case and supporting exhibits. On October 4, 2013, plaintiff was committed to the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board (“PSRB”) for a length of time not to exceed forty years and confined at the Whiting Forensic Division of the Connecticut Valley Hospital. Since his arrival at Whiting, the PSRB has not authorized any trips for plaintiff outside of the facility except for medical appointments, and even then only under police escort. Doc. #1 at 24.

         Plaintiff's mother died on July 29, 2015. Her funeral was held on August 4, 2015. After learning of his mother's death and prior to the funeral, plaintiff submitted requests to attend the funeral to various officials at the Connecticut Valley Hospital. The officials denied plaintiff's requests to attend his mother's funeral. Plaintiff now seeks judgment against defendant for an award of $3 million in damages.

         Plaintiff has attached papers to his complaint that I may consider in evaluating the validity of his complaint. Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002). According to these papers (which include a letter to plaintiff from the chief executive officer of the hospital), plaintiff's request was denied for clinical reasons and in light of “numerous events [at the hospital] when you [plaintiff] have not been able to maintain your composure, ” as well as in light of information that plaintiff was upset in recent days with his family. Doc. #1 at 20, 24.

         Although the hospital acknowledged that it had permitted plaintiff to leave the hospital for medical appointments, it had done so only with plaintiff under a police escort, id. at 24, and the hospital's chief executive officer further noted that “it is an extremely rare event to allow a patient from maximum security to attend a funeral in the community.” Id. at 25. The hospital offered to assist with the planning of a memorial service in honor of plaintiff's mother at the visiting room of the hospital. Id. at 22, 25.

         Plaintiff also alleges that prisoners and other hospital patients have been permitted to attend family funerals. Id. at 14. The papers attached to his complaint reflect that he asked the hospital to identify how many other patients in the past ten years had been permitted to attend funeral services. Id. at 21.

         Discussion

         A district court must dismiss an in forma pauperis action if it determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In determining whether a case is subject to dismissal, it is well-established that “pro se complaints must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013). Still, even a pro se complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Plaintiff brings this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which creates a federal cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, deprives a citizen or a person within the jurisdiction of the United States of any right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff names only one defendant, whom he identifies as “State of Connecticut Mental Health Commissioner M. Dalphine M.D.” Doc. #1 at 1. The complaint does not name as a defendant any of the officials who were involved with the decision not to release plaintiff and whose names appear on the documents attached to the complaint.

         “It is well settled that, in order to establish a defendant's individual liability in a suit brought under § 1983, a plaintiff must show, inter alia, the defendant's personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Grullon v. City of New Haven, 720 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2013). Here, plaintiff alleges that he informed administrators at Connecticut Valley Hospital of his desire to attend his mother's funeral, but he does not allege that he contacted defendant, nor that defendant was in any way involved in the decision to deny him permission to attend the funeral. Because plaintiff does not assert that defendant was personally involved in the alleged constitutional deprivation, plaintiff's claims against defendant in her individual capacity are not cognizable under § 1983.

         Plaintiff is also barred from bringing a § 1983 claim against this defendant in her official capacity, because state officials sued in their official capacities are immune from suit for damages pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984) (agencies and departments of the state are entitled to assert the state's Eleventh Amendment immunity); Davis v. New York, 316 F.3d 93, 101 (2d Cir. 2002) (state, state agencies, and prison officials in ...


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